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Man who led police on chase gets conditional sentence

Justin Gerald Niehaus-Studivan faces three months of strict house arrest, followed by three months under a curfew
WES courthouse pano web

WESTLOCK – A 30-year-old Edmonton man who was drunk and suicidal when he led RCMP on an August 2021 high-speed chase that started near Busby and concluded 90 minutes later near Wabamun beach, now faces a year of probation and a six-month conditional sentence that includes 90 days of strict, 24-hours-a-day house arrest.

In Westlock Provincial Court Sept. 14, Justin Gerald Niehaus-Studivan pleaded guilty to flight from a peace officer, while Crown prosecutor Anthony Estephan withdrew a speeding ticket, plus charges of dangerous operation of a motor vehicle, obstructing a peace officer and resisting a peace officer.

Judge Peter Ayotte agreed to the joint-sentence submission from Estephan and defence lawyer Adam Shaben that’ll see Niehaus-Studivan serve a six-month conditional sentence that includes a host of conditions and three months of 24-hour-a-day house arrest, followed by three months of an 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew. Niehaus-Studivan, who declined comment when asked by Judge Ayotte, also faces a year of probation, which includes a variety of conditions, and will perform 20 hours of community service.

Judge Ayotte declined imposing a victim-fine surcharge and rejected a call from Estephan that would have seen Niehaus-Studivan donate $400 to the Edmonton chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving saying the court “has to remain at arm’s length from charities.”

Estephan, who did not allege a criminal record during sentencing but did note Niehaus-Studivan had a dated unrelated conviction, said the “crux of the offence” centred around “mental health issues.” Estephan also noted the speed at which Niehaus-Studivan was travelling and his driving pattern as aggravating factors as it was “an extremely dangerous situation”, however, there were no injuries. He also said that Niehaus-Studivan was “a good candidate” for a conditional sentence and had received an Immediate Roadside Suspension (IRS) for being drunk behind the wheel at the time of his arrest and has not driven since.

“Part of the Crown’s conditions are assessment, treatment and counselling for not only drugs and alcohol, but for psychological and psychiatric treatment. So, there’s a substantial emphasis on rehabilitation from the Crown’s perspective which is appropriate in this case, so Mr. Niehaus-Studivan is not in front of the court again with similar charges,” said Estephan.

Shaben told court Niehaus-Studivan is part owner of an Edmonton business and was suffering from “manic depression” following a “tumultuous relationship” and break-up with his then-girlfriend who he had been dating for eight months — she had charged him with harassment the day before he was involved in the chase.

“This sent him into a depressed state. The accused became suicidal and abusing alcohol to cope with his emotional instability. The accused advised me he attempted suicide on the road while being pursued by police,” said Shaben, noting publication of Niehaus-Studivan’s arrest in the Westlock News also “had a detrimental effect on his employment.”

“But the accused has turned his life around since the time of these offences and he’s advised me that he’s now sober and made a 360 (degree) turnaround. The harassment charges in which he was charged with, he was found not guilty of at trial. He’s moved on from his past relationship and is focusing on his employment. And he is remorseful for what happened.”

The chase

A previous RCMP release notes that at around 6 p.m., Aug. 15, 2021, a vehicle towing a boat travelling south on Highway 44 near Highway 651 was stopped for a traffic safety offence by a member of the Westlock RCMP Traffic Unit — Estephan told court that radar confirmed Niehaus-Studivan’s vehicle was travelling at 168 km/h.

Estephan told court that after Niehaus-Studivan failed a roadside screening test, police observed “blood on his hand and neck” and paramedics were called.

When they arrived, Niehaus-Studivan started his truck, drove into the ditch and around the parked ambulance — Estephan told court the constable believed Niehaus-Studivan “was suicidal and may harm himself or others.” RCMP gave chase for 16 kilometres until it was “determined the risk to the public was too great.”

The previous RCMP news release also notes that Edmonton Police Air Services were called to help with the pursuit, and it was Parkland County RCMP officers who arrested Niehaus-Studivan near Wabamun beach.

During the arrest, Estephan said the RCMP officer reached in the driver’s side window and opened the truck’s door from the inside, then undid Niehaus-Studivan’s seatbelt.

“He tensed up and made his hands into fists. Niehaus-Studivan never made any attempt to strike or fight police but was actively resistant to being handcuffed and leaving the vehicle,” said Estephan.

George Blais,

George Blais

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